What do I think, What can I do?

Archive for the ‘Small Dictionary’ Category

Carbon Bubble

From Flicker

From Flicker

Carbon Bubble concept is a very interesting one, clearly supported by most climate hawks but somehow questioned too in other cases as: “Carbon Bubbles — Who’s Kidding Who?“. The concept is a translation from financial or housing bubbles. Bubbles are wonderful, the grow and grow until they explode, it is a very well-known concept in the south of Europe recently and in many other places along history.

So, what would be a carbon bubble? It is simple, even if the estimations of fossil fuel reserves are correct a great part of them should not be used if we do not want to enter in a really catastrophic climate change, so they should be useless and the companies that own them not so worthy.

Yet, this idea is not mainstream in any stock market or society and the oil or gas deposit continue to be considered as valuable as ever or more. This is a  contradiction for many as climate change is widely recognized (even for oil companies) as a threat, the question is that most uf us in OCDE theoretically recognise climate change as a scientific fact but do not go further to consider it a vital challenge of our generation, and this is the problem. While this problem persists the carbon bubble will remain wandering harmless and several people will have to insist in the need of urgent action..



CSA, Community-Supported Agriculture, a great Climate Change oriented idea

One week vegatables, or just

Vegetables for the week, or just “the bag”, Image from Wikipedia

2 months ago I wrote about a personal/familiar experience I was happy about, now I know how it is called in english: Community-Supported Agriculture. To write in English is many times a challenge for me.

I learnt the term from this post that explains the concept better than me. This is the kind of small great things that can really make a difference for the two great objectives of climate change:


  • Mitigation: The reduction of transport requirement will certainly help, as transport is roughly the source of one-third of CO2 emissions. But even more, local production can make better choices regarding land usage, another 10% of emissions
  • Adaptation: Some of the most terrible consequences of climate change in a world approaching 10 billion will be the pressure in food production and distribution: another word; food security. Making it profitable to produce near home will be a warranty of some food production, and, even more, a comprehensive supply chain will avoid disagreeable surprises from markets we do not understand.

Of course, I do not think this is the ultimate solution for climate change nor the only possible source of food for me or anyone close to me, it’s just a good idea, reasonable, and helps and works.

EROEI, another strange word

I recently met twice this interesting concept, EROEI, I do not intend to give a better definition than wikipedia so I quote it:

energy returned on energy invested (EROEI or ERoEI); or energy return on investment (EROI), is the ratio of the amount of usable energy acquired from a particular energy resource to the amount of energy expended to obtain that energy resource

The easy and rough way: how much energy you need to get a unit of energy.

  • How much energy is neccessary to drill holes for getting oil, and then tranporting, refining,.. before final consumption in form of gas.
  • How much energy is needed to build a wind farm and the electricity net associated.

I like this concept because it is very physical and physicists love those things. Apart from that it is something that does not depend on economic circumstances or the influence of big companies in prices, or subsidies… The economy is more prone to account for short term interests and factors, so a more pure measurement system to compare different energy sources is welcomed. Of course it does not substitute the actual prices because nobody will accept it straightforward but it is another tool to takelong term decisions and understanding what’s going on. These 3 links go deeper in that concept, here, hear, and here. And finally this article in neofronteras that explains it very clearly in Spanish, as usual in that blog.

The calculated EROEI valujes range from 100 for oil almost in the surface to almost 1 or even less than one values for cases where the needed energy is more than the obtained.  It is considered that values below 10 are doubfully profitable and cases close to 1 should not be profitable at all but could be due to econonomical circunstances. Another factor is the time, that is not considered in this calcaulation and has led to other indexes as EIRR (last figure).

However, actual EROEI figures are not as pure as the concept and differ seiously from one source to other, you can check it in the figures below. Wind mills are ussually in the 20 values, quite good, there is also a coincidence about the lowering value of oil, but nuclear and coal prsent several different values. Photovoltaic is ussualy near the 10 limit. I do not know the cause of the divergence, I suppose it is not easy to calculate or maybe the same factors affecting energy economy are present here too, I will have to check it better.

At least, I agree with the idea that in the long term it is difficult to maintain a cheap low EROEI energy system, it would not be sustainable in any sense.

Another EROEI calculation, source, Searching for a miracle, but obtained from neofronteras.

Some EROEI calculations , source: Wikipedia

EIRR and EROEI from ococarbon.wordpress.org

EIRR and EROEI from ococarbon.wordpress.org

Proxy, indirect measurements

Proxy. This word has been fascinating for me for a long time. I think I understood more or less the meaning from the first time, but it was quite inaccurate. In this moment I feel much more comfortable to read and use it. A proxy is an indirect measurement of some magnitude. For example in cooking, if you are not able to measure the cooking state or temperature of the turkey you can guide yourself by the time. We use proxies all the time and rely on them very confidently, because they are based on the knowledge of the issue we have.
Proxy measurements are also a source of criticism by skeptics as it is very easy cast a doubt about them. Even more, in some cases they will be right as a particular proxy may be a wrong measurement technique (if you cook pasta in Bolivia, the time measurement is not right, becuase the pressure is low and the boiling temperature changes, OK we have learnt something new about this proxy, its application scope). This is science, learning from errors, getting more reliable data and questioning them and the previous theories.

But even if they are not perfect, proxies are many times the only source of information for many sciences (nobody measured the weight of dinosaurs, or has been close to our sun) and they are one of the fascinating things about science: how indirect measurements, hints in some cases, combine with solid base of science and theories to be proben true or false to get a coherent picture.

Because climate change is not based in a weak proxy, it is based on knowledge of greenhouse effect, many current measurements and many different proxies from the past. And the models are only considered reasonable when they fit those data.

Methane Hydrates, energy solution, bombshell or just a beautiful fire?


Image from Wikipedia

Recently I read in a sceptic blog a post about methane hydrates. They are a huge potential source of methane or natural gas in the bottom of the sea. Their extraction and use as fuel it is not straightforward nor cheap, but some researchers claim they have found a way to do it economically. This wonderful “burning fire” promises a new oil era, a longer one to continue with fossil fuel energy.

It is interesting for me to see the fascination that some feel for fossil fuels or anything that burns. Because in order to find some new energy source they could explain the new possibilities of nanotechnologies in this field or advances in biofuels. All those researches could become real or not , the same as methane hydrates. Yet they have a big difference, they do not emit CO2 and would help us reduce climate change.

And all this if due to climate change some of those methane hydrates do not start to melt just by the higher temperature, something quite dangerous as methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and it would ignite a strong positive feedback. It seems unlikely, fortunately. but it they want to get it all for sure they will have to be fast.